Why I’m so Vocal About “Local”

Written by guest author, Heatherleigh Navarre
Owner of Boston Tea Room

Years ago, when I was a child out running errands with my father, I noticed that everyone we met knew him by name. The woman who got him his coffee at the donut shop on the corner, the man at the dry cleaner where we picked up Dad’s shirts, and even the gas station attendant who filled our tank (it was THAT long ago), all called him “Pete” and chatted amiably with him for a bit. When I asked him that day how all those people knew him so well, I got my first lesson in the importance of shopping local.

Dad explained that these were all small locally owned businesses that made it a point to get to know their customers, which meant that he always got better service there than at other places where he wasn’t known. As dad put it, “This winter if there’s a cold morning when my car won’t start, I can call Ed at the station here, and he’ll come help me out, because he knows I always fill up my tank at his place. It pays to know folks, kiddo.” It was a lesson I never forgot.

The Boston Tea Room
Boston Tea Room, located on 9 Mile in Downtown Ferndale

It’s more than thirty years since then, and that lesson has proven true over and over again. Now that I’m a small business owner myself, I remember that day, and I try to follow that example of getting to know everyone who visits my shop. It’s fun, because in case you haven’t noticed, people are fascinating creatures. It helps that I am an extrovert by nature, and I really do believe that everyone has a story to share. But getting to know my own patrons isn’t where it stops for me. I also strive to get to know my neighbor businesses, and lend them my support whenever possible, in order to help nurture and grow a thriving environment for my own shop.

When my not-so-local clients come in to visit, I need to be able to suggest a great lunch spot nearby, along with which restaurant has the most vegetarian options, which shop has great gifts for men, or who hosts the best happy hour in town, or nearby places that may have what they need when my place does not – and that means getting to know as many other local businesses as I can. And that’s not just good for my business; it’s good for my community, too.

Many of my customers are also my neighbors, living in the same town, and by trying to ensure that the local business community thrives, I am doing my part to co-create a vibrant place for all of us to live, work, and play. So there’s a component of good business practice, and there’s an altruistic component, as well. I want to live in a place where there is a diverse, creative, and unique vibe, where small businesses are able to succeed, and where individuality is valued and encouraged.

MBrew
MBrew, located on Vester Street in Ferndale

Of course, there’s a selfish motivation, too. The night before Thanksgiving, my staff and I were hard at work, and getting a bit ravenous. We called one of our favorite local eateries to get some food delivered, and were told that they had already closed for the holiday (darn it), but that since we were regular customers, he would make an exception and bring us whatever we needed (hooray!). I doubt any of the corporate chains would’ve been so accommodating (thank you Felix and the whole crew at M-Brew!)

Small business owners are my heroes and heroines. They are scrappy, industrious risk-takers. The owner of that donut shop I mentioned earlier gave me my very first job, and taught me the value of a good work ethic and that there is dignity in every task. “To feed people is to bless them,” he told me once.

Jacki Smith and Patty Shaw, Owners of Coventry Creations
Jacki Smith and Patty Shaw, Owners of Coventry Creations in Downtown Ferndale

The owner of a record store where I worked in the nineties taught me that to complain about ‘the public’ is nonsensical. People are individuals, and lumping them together robs them of their humanity, so don’t do it.” Six years ago, it was Jacki Smith and Patty Shaw, local owners of Coventry Creations, who actually invited me to open a shop here in Ferndale, right next to their business, for which I am eternally grateful.

More recently, another local business owner, Cheryl Tucker, of Rouge Makeup and Nails, sat down with me over coffee and spreadsheets and helped chart a course for making some big changes for my little shop in the New Year. We had a great time brainstorming and accomplished so much – far more than I could have done on my own.

Rouge Makeup and Nails, located on Woodward in Ferndale
Rouge Makeup and Nails, located on Woodward in Ferndale

Local businesses are always on the front lines: they are hit hardest in recessionary times, and they are the drivers of any economic recovery, not to mention being the sole economic support of so many of our friends, families, and neighbors, so when I spend my money with them, I know it’s going into the pockets of the people in my community. I learn far more from them than from any class I’ve ever taken, or business book I’ve ever read.

So, support your local small business owner. Get to know them, and your life will be better for it, and if you dare, BE one. The world needs more courageous fools living their dreams.

Boston Tea Room Collage

Heatherleigh Navarre is the owner of Boston Tea Room, a family business in downtown Ferndale. Boston Tea Room is an award-winning independent book store, gourmet tea shop, and psychic reading salon. She loves reading, road trips, and long conversations with other small business owners over piping-hot cups of tea. More information at bostontearoom.com

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The Community Spirit of Ferndale

Photo credit: SoPlat Media
Photo credit: SoPlat Media

Written by guest author Jay McMillan, President of Royal Services

I believe that Ferndale, perhaps more than other communities that I have lived, played, and been a part of, is one of the most giving communities. This is just one of the unique ways Ferndale adds to our lives.

As the Chair for the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, and a business owner and president of Royal Services, I know this to be true:  Giving to the community creates a sense of belonging, a sense of pride, and a sense of caring.

Giving to the community, whether it be through contributions, offering a helping hand to our neighbors, or through taking part in community activities, gives back to me that feeling of “WOW, I am proud to be a part of Ferndale!”  Sharing the joy of successes of ourselves and others makes me stick my chest out a little further, adding to the pride of being part of Ferndale.

If I ask myself, where do I belong and where does Royal Services belong, there is only one logical choice – we belong in Ferndale.  Through Royal Services logomy activities with organizations, volunteer efforts, or just by  sitting and speaking with new business owners, I realize that I do these things because I really want to! Never an expectation of getting anything in return, but from the pure joy of giving.  The payback, if you will, is that the community has reached back and offered a strong sense of belonging.  I am PROUD to say I am from Ferndale Michigan – look at what we have become and where we are going!

The last component is that Ferndale is a caring community. Plain and simple, we care about each other and for many of us, we are there to offer that helping hand when we are needed most. Those business neighbors who are most successful give to the community without a second thought. Not because it’s good business, but because they care.

Jack Aronson receives "Special Service Award" at the 2014 Ferndale Area Chamber Gala.
Jack Aronson receives “Special Service Award” at the 2014 Ferndale Area Chamber Gala.

With the floods of 2014, those that cared most stepped up and took the lead in offering support to those that were devastated. I look at Jack Aronson, owner of Garden Fresh Salsa, and his efforts through flood relief and the Ferndale location for The Boys and Girls Club. I watch Jim Pool, Pastor of Renaissance Vineyard Church, and know that he genuinely cares  about our city, offering a helping hand to those in need of help.  I look at Kyle Van Buren, owner of Biggby Coffee – Ferndale. He is one of the newer members of our community, and has already embraced Ferndale and the Ferndale Public Schools, taking part wherever he can.  I can look at any number of individuals in our community who have similar stories.

It’s what we’re all about – helping one another succeed. Thank you Ferndale for letting myself and Royal Services make this our community home.

#SupportLocal

So…Why Small Business Saturday?

Cristina DDAWritten by guest author Cristina Sheppard-Decius, CMSM
Ferndale DDA Executive Director

I do not “do” Black Friday. Never have. So when American Express came out with Small Business Saturday a few years back, I thought, “Well finally, someone gets it.” I always thought I was alone in feeling this way, which come to find out, I am not. This is not to disparage those who have made Black Friday a family tradition nor to change that habit either. There is obviously room for both, I just secretly hope to play an active role in swinging more folks around to my kind of thinking.

Jerry's at Rust Belt
Jerry’s Shirts original space in Ferndale,  at The Rust Belt Market

I know some of you may think that Small Business Saturday is just an American Express marketing gimmick or made-up holiday. To me, Small Business Saturday is so much more than that, and there are many other small busines advocates who agree. While American Express my have coined the term and are spending thousands on marketing it to earn a greater return, what they have really done is help strengthen the voice of small businesses everywhere and bring greater awareness as to the why you should shop on Small Business Saturday.

DDA Modern Natural Baby
Modern Natural Baby

So why Small Business Saturday?

Location, Location, Location. Small businesses keep it local. Did you know that small businesses reinvest 70% of every dollar earned back into their local community? It is two times more than any national chain or online business. Downtown Ferndale is also pretty easy to get to, we love biking (even in the winter), and we are completely walkable to over 350 businesses.

It’s About the People. Small local businesses are about the people who run them; your neighbors, your friends, your children’s friends or their parents, your family—the person willing to put everything on the line to go against the corporate grain and take a chance on themselves. It’s a big risk running a small business, but usually comes with a great reward—and it’s not money, it’s gratification. Gratification that you are doing what you love. (Although being able to cover your expenses, support your employees and family is really important, too!).

DDA Christmas
“Downtown Ferndale is overflowing in originality, and that is what makes our city the place people want to be.”

Many of our Downtown Ferndale business owners are Ferndale residents, and the same holds true for a significant majority of their employees. They not only invest in their downtown, but also in the people who live here.

Genuine Service. No where else will get you a more genuine experience, the best customer service and full appreciation from shop owners than when you shop at a small business. Small businesses work harder to make sure you’re happy.

Originality. Small businesses are born from the idea of one or sometimes a small group of individuals, whose individuality shines through in what they do, how they do it and what they provide. Downtown Ferndale is overflowing with originality, and that is what makes our city the place people want to be. Downtown Ferndale has a whole host of creative gift buying options – you are sure to be the hit of the party or make your loved ones’ holiday special. There is also comfort in knowing that the dollars you spend on Small Business Saturday will directly impact your community.

More Fun Than Not. I’m just going to say it. Shopping in a downtown is just a heck of Leave Your Printa lot more fun than being stuck in a line or being packed in like sardines in a mall or big box. I love being able to have a real conversation with the real owner of the store, and take my time making my shopping decisions. Small business owners know how to help you, even when you don’t know what you’re looking for. We also have over 60 restaurants and entertainment venues to add to that shopping experience, which to me is a winner! Nothing beats a day of shopping than to be able to sit down, kick back and enjoy a meal someone makes for me (and a beverage I might add). Stress be gone!

Found Sound DDA
Found Sound

So what are you doing this Saturday, November 29th? After reading this I hope you are taking it to the streets of Downtown Ferndale for Small Business Saturday. Start your day with brunch, then make sure to pick up the Downtown Ferndale Passport to specials and savings at more than 30 businesses. Every time you make a purchase, get your passport stamped. With each stamp, you will be entered into a raffle of amazing prizes from our merchants. With each stamp you know you are supporting your community! For a list of businesses and all the details, go to www.downtownferndale.com.

#ShopSmall #ShopLocal #DowntownFerndale